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Indian Polity

Right to Protest

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  • 22 Oct 2021
  • 4 min read

Why in News

The Supreme Court said farmers had the right to protest, but roads cannot be blocked indefinitely (impeding the right of citizens to commute without hindrance).

Key Points

  • Right to Protest:
    • Although the Right to Protest is not an explicit right under the Fundamental rights, it can be derived from the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19.
      • Article 19(1)(a): The Right to free speech and expression transforms into the right to freely express an opinion on the conduct of the government.
      • Article 19(1)(b): The Right to association is required to form associations for political purposes.
        • These can be formed to collectively challenge government decisions.
      • Article 19(1)(c): The Right to peaceably assemble allows people to question and object to acts of the government by demonstrations, agitations and public meetings, to launch sustained protest movements.
      • These rights, in cohesion, enable every citizen to assemble peacefully and protest against action or inaction of the State.
    • Right to Protest ensures that people can act as watchdogs and constantly monitor governments' acts.
      • It provides feedback to the governments about their policies and actions after which the concerned government, through consultation, meetings and discussion, recognizes and rectifies its mistakes.
  • Restriction on Right to Protest:
    • Article 19(2) imposes reasonable restrictions on the right to freedom of speech and expression. These reasonable restrictions are imposed in the interests of the following:
      • Sovereignty and integrity of India,
      • Security of the State,
      • Friendly relations with foreign States,
      • Public order,
      • Decency or morality
      • Contempt of court,
      • Defamation
      • Incitement to an offence.
    • Further, resorting to violence during the protest is a violation of a key fundamental duty of citizens.
      • Enumerated in Article 51A, the Constitution makes it a fundamental duty of every citizen “to safeguard public property and to abjure violence”.
  • Related Supreme Court’s Judgements:
    • The Supreme Court hearing the plea regarding Shaheen Bagh Protests in 2019, upheld the right to peaceful protest against the law but also cleared that public ways and public spaces cannot be occupied and that too indefinitely.
    • SC referred to its 2018 judgment in the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan vs Union of India and Another case, which dealt with demonstrations at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar.
      • The judgment tried to balance the interests of local residents with those of protesters to hold demonstrations and directed the police to devise a proper mechanism for limited use of the area for peaceful protests and demonstrations and to lay down parameters for this.
    • In Ramlila Maidan Incident v. Home Secretary, Union Of India & Ors. case (2012), the Supreme Court had stated, “Citizens have a fundamental right to assembly and peaceful protest which cannot be taken away by an arbitrary executive or legislative action”.

Source: IE

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